Historical storage budgets of organic carbon, nutrient and contaminant elements in saltmarsh sediments: Biogeochemical context for managed realignment, Humber Estuary, UK

JE Andrews, G Samways, GB Shimmield

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Biogeochemical data from Welwick marsh (Humber Estuary, UK), an actively accreting saltmarsh, provides a decadal–centennial-scale natural analogue for likely future biogeochemical storage effects of managed realignment sites accreting either intertidal muds or saltmarsh. Marsh topographic profiles and progradation history from aerial photographs were combined with 137Cs and niobium contamination history to establish and verify chronology and sediment mass accumulation. These data, combined with down-core measurements of particulate organic carbon (Corg), organic nitrogen (Norg), particle reactive phosphorus and selected contaminant metal (Zn, Pb, Cu, As and Nb) contents were then used to calculate sediment and chemical storage terms and to quantify changes in these over time. These data are used to help predict likely future biogeochemical storage changes at managed realignment sites in the estuary. The net effect of returning some 26 km2 of reclaimed land to intertidal environments now (about 25% of the maximum possible realignment storage identified for the estuary) could result in the storage of some 40,000 tonnes a- 1 of sediment which would also bury about 800 tonnes a- 1 of Corg and 40 tonnes a- 1 of Norg. Particulate contaminant P burial would be around 25 tonnes a- 1 along with ~ 6 tonnes a- 1 contaminant Zn, 3 tonnes a- 1 contaminant Pb, and ~ 1 tonnes a- 1 contaminant As and Cu. The study also shows that reclamation activities in the outer estuary since the mid-1700s has prevented, in total, the deposition of about 10 million tonnes of sediment, along with 320,000 tonnes of Corg and 16,000 tonnes of Norg. The study provides a mid-1990s baseline against which future measurements at the site can determine changes in burial fluxes and improvement or deterioration in contaminant metal contents of the sediments. The data are directly relevant for local managed realignment sites but also broadly indicative for sites generally on the European North Sea Coast.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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